The thermal power plant located in Gacko municipality has caused multiple human health problems since it was built in 1983. It is the second biggest polluter in the Western Balkans due to its emission of fine particles (PM10). In 2016 alone it caused 158 deaths, 331 cases of bronchitis in children and 83 cases of chronic bronchitis in adults, 3371 children with symptoms of asthma and 115 hospitalizations .
These data are based on the report “Chronic coal pollution: EU action on the Western Balkans will improve health and economies across Europe” (HEAL, CAN Europe, Sandbag, CEE Bankwatch Network and Europe Beyond Coal. 2019) published on February 19, 2019. Center for Environment (Centar za životnu sredinu -CZZS) – Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina and Zelena Akzija – Friends of the Earth Croatia, among other environmental organizations from the Balkans participated in this report.
Before the building of the thermal power plant, Gacko was known for its clean air and there were practically no cases of asthma or bronchitis in children. Currently, respiratory problems and the number of cases of cancer have increased, added to the fact that the air, water and land are contaminated with the gasses emitted by the landfill, in addition to the noise and dust. The landscape is dominated by this thermal power plant and mine pits.
While it is known that pollution has extended from Gacko to the rest of Europe, we don´t know exactly the dangers caused by the coal mine and thermal power plant in this municipality, because despite the initiatives promoted by the civil society, “a study to answer these questions (…) has never been done”, reported CZZS.
This is added to the fact that the metering station that reads the data has not been working “for a long time”, stated the organization. “When the display stopped working, the management of the thermal power plant said that they did not have the obligation to provide the public with an insight into the level of pollution. Since then, we have no information about this”, said Milanka Kovačević, journalist and activist of Gacko.
Despite the worrying situation, it was reported that Chinese businesspeople want to invest in the building of a second thermal power plant there, through an agreement signed in December 2017 with the owners of the thermal power plant, the government of the Republika Srpska, which will ensure jobs for members of the party.
Economist Damir Miljević insisted that there are still solutions and it is necessary to look to the many positive examples of energy transition in developed countries without depending on coal or other fossil-fuel based energy sources.
Below we share a video by CZZS about the environmental situation in Gacko: